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Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Unique Nature of Ageism

There are many factors that lead to the expression of prejudice toward various social groups, including”…implicit attitudes, associations, social norms, social identity concerns, inter-group contact and inter-group conflict.”  (Just take a look at what’s happening in the Middle East right now). In terms of ageism, implicit attitudes toward older people tend to be quite negative.”  This is ironic because unlike the other group prejudices, everyone who lives long enough will enter into the category old age, elder, senior etc.
         “The transitional nature of age groups may add a number of unique factors that can trigger ageist attitudes. Research has found that among younger adults  “…exposure to older adults increases the accessibility of death related thoughts about one’s own death”. In other words being around elders may create negative feelings.  On the other side it has been found that more positive attitudes toward one’s own aging can lead to increased liking for older acquaintances like grandparents.
         Not much research has been done examining personal and interpersonal attitudes toward ones own aging “…for instance, in appearance, health, cognitive function, independence and relationships with friends and family.  There is also the concern about social identity, which includes personality and social roles.  For example as a young man I was an athlete and think about that as I do my morning jogs around the neighborhood
         “Research has shown that motivation to acquire and maintain positive identity for one’s own group” can lead to putting down and discriminating against other groups especially if it has to do with treat to the positive identity of one’s own group.”   This “us versus them” can help us understand a lot of inter-group conflict.
         But with respect to aging  “…young and middle aged adults may be adverse to joining the lower status older adult group, and might express prejudice as a means of distancing themselves from older adults.”
         At the same time, and this is a thought to think about carefully, “Young and middle-aged adults who express prejudice toward older adults are, in a sense, condemning themselves to future membership in a despised group.  At the same time it could be reversed because “…positive social identities apply to the future as well as current group memberships. 
The article I have referred to is 29 pages long and digs deeper into what we might do to help reduce age prejudice

[1]  The source of this material is Packer, D.J. & A.L. Chasteen; Looking To The Future: How Possible Aged Selves Influence Prejudice Toward Older Adults, Social Cognition, Vol 24, No. 3 pp. 218-247.

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